Yesterday I led a prayer activity at Messy Church at the church where I’m doing supply ministry. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of craft activities as a medium for Christian education or faith formation. Experience beats analogy every time as far as I’m concerned. I would rather provide an experience of prayer than an activity that is somehow an abstract representation of the nature of prayer. All of my learning indicates that this is beyond the cognitive development of children (no matter what you try to tell yourself.) Hence, when we ran Alive@5, any craft was a response to the biblical story, and allowed for free creative expression,  not “We’re going to make this.” I have a couple of other problems with Messy Church if you’re interested… [BTW this is in no way a criticism of our leaders who do a fantastic job – I just have a different philosophy/approach to faith formation than what Messy Church tends to do.]

Initially I was going to put up a Prayer Tent and teach people about breathing prayer, but after the previous Sunday’s epic adventure I went for something simpler. As you’ll see, the table was set up to explore three kinds or prayer – Thanks, Help! and Sorry. I had three sets of cards – Picture This and Storycatching from Innovative Resources, and the Imago Vita set of photo cards that the presbytery eLM ministers put together when I was in Victoria. [These are FREE to download.] I also used a set of Innovative Resources Koala Cards (out of print).

I had three chairs as that seemed a manageable number for conversation. I invited someone to turn over a card from one of the three piles (their choice). We then wondered together about what might be going on in the picture. What was happening? Who might be in or involved in this? How might they be feeling? Have we ever experience this? How did we feel?  etc.

We talked about what kind/s of prayer we might want to make in this situation. The responses usually included more than one kind of prayer (eg. Christmas was an interesting one!). Next we made some sentence prayers – this was more conversation than stopping to pray as such. It think it worked reasonably well in terms of participation and exploration of the theme. The table ended up attracting a number of children and parents as onlookers, since they had completed other activities. This probably worked against moving into actual prayer, as there was audience reaction to some of the conversation. I would try to maintain a more separate space next time.

I have quite a few sets of cards and other knick knacks that make excellent discussion starters or work as media for self-expression/response to a story or theme.

[Picture This and  Imago Vita below]